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Book Review: 『リカーシブル』by Honobu YONEZAWA

I have finished 『リカーシブル』by Honobu YONEZAWA (米澤穂信), and with it, I have completed both my reading challenge for the year and my goals for the month of December.

A novel with various themes

「この街は確かに、どこかおかしい」(p.394)

Haruka, her mother and younger brother Satoru have to move back to the mother’s native little town. While Haruka, who starts her first year of middle-school, tries to make her place in the class hierarchy, a growing feeling of uneasiness will change her priorities. There is something strange with this town and Satoru is acting weird: Haruka will investigate.

This mystery novel is quite long (+500 pages) and encompasses a wide range of topics. First, the daily preoccupations of the protagonist Haruka. As a transfer student, she has to find her place in the class hierarchy and make friends. We also soon find out that her family is not what it seems and Haruka has to find her place in it too.

Another important point is the town itself: the town is slowly dying, many stores have shut down, the school is half empty… the adults fight their own battle by lobbying to make the highway come to their town. This is an important theme of the novel.

Finally, there is a legend attached to the town, or more precisely, a folks’ tale that all the inhabitants know of. This is a major topic, and it lays at the heart of the mystery.

An intriguing mystery

To be honest, folk tales, traditions and legends are not what appeals the most to me when it comes to Japanese culture. It interests me, but I would not like to read a whole novel involving deities or legendary characters. If I had known that this topic was so present in the novel, I would certainly not have bought it.

As a result, I was not fully focused when reading the passages about this particular folks’ tale (and they were the most difficult to read, too, which didn’t help), and this is a shame because a good part of the mystery is linked to it.

In spite of it, I enjoyed reading this book very much. The mystery is so intriguing that it kept me reading despite my lack of interest in certain passages and a general feeling that the book lacked real tension or real danger.

I would say that the author really managed to create a feeling of uneasiness: the atmosphere of the town, some people acting weird, it always looks like something is not quite right. This, and the sympathy I had for Haruka, kept me engrossed in the book until the end.

Conclusion

『リカーシブル』is a great mystery that involves a lot of topics and reads a little like a detective novel: the reader, as well as Haruka, has all the elements in hands to solve the mystery. In addition to being an intriguing novel, 『リカーシブル』is also a very consistent one: everything falls into place in the end, and the attentive reader can certainly solve the mystery by himself.

I must admit that I haven’t fully taken advantage of this feature. As I said, some passages bored me, and I haven’t paid enough attention to details. This is a shame really!

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